Alaska-based paratroopers are making considerable progress in counter-insurgency efforts aimed at protecting civilians in Afghanistan and developing the local economy in the three provinces in which they operate, their commander says.
In the seventh month of their one-year deployment, the soldiers of the 4th Brigade Combat Team (Airborne) of the 25th Infantry Division, based at Fort Richardson, have cut civilian casualties from attacks by the Taliban and other insurgents by nearly 50 percent, said Col. Michael Howard.
At the same time, despite an overall rise in U.S. combat deaths in Afghanistan over the last year, the number of soldiers killed in their three provinces is down about 80 percent compared to same period for the previous U.S. force to occupy that region, Howard said.
Still, 11 soldiers from the 3,500-strong brigade have died in Afghanistan, 10 of them in combat, and 31 were wounded so seriously they will not return to battle.
Howard spoke by teleconference Friday to Alaska reporters from a base in Khost Province. The brigade, and three additional battalions attached to it, patrol Khost, Paktia and Paktika provinces in eastern Afghanistan, an area about the size of Maryland. Their battle space includes about 340 miles of frontier with Pakistan. The Army has attached three additional battalions to the 4-25th, while mixed civilian and uniformed provincial reconstruction teams and agricultural advisors are also working the with brigade, placing the number of people under Howard's command at 5,500.
This is Howard's fourth tour in Afghanistan and the first for the 4-25th, which previously had gone to Iraq for 14 months.
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